Last week’s Aramco Team Series — London, saw Golf Saudi continue to change the landscape of golf and look to the future of the game.
The host golf club, Centurion Club in Hemel Hemstead, close to St Albans, saw 108 lady professionals play the traditional Ladies European Tour-sanctioned 54-hole individual medal tournament alongside a team event with a combined prize fund of $1 million. There were 36 teams with seeded captains leading their teams of four players, comprised of one US-style draft pick, one randomly allocated player and one amateur all on the eve of the tournament.
Live on TV around the world with invited spectators allowed as per government COVID-19 regulations, the first-of-its-kind Team Series concept has now been established following the original pioneer event in Saudi last November that proved the success and sustainability of this dual model format.
Marianne Skarpnord of Norway took her fifth LET title and the first prize of $25,366.80 with a 13-under par score after a two-hole play-off with Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul.
The Centurion Club was also host to the inaugural ‘Sixes’ Tournament first pioneered by the European Tour in 2017.
Others in the mix last week included an international star-studded leaderboard including home hopes Charley Hull and Georgia Hall (Eng), plus Anna Nordqvist of Sweden in a field that included players from 23 countries.
American superstar Lexi Thompson, 2020 LET Order of Merit and Race to Costa del Sol champion Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark, Australia’s Minjee Lee — the winner of the 2020 Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic — were also in field field alongside Laura Davies, Solheim Cup Captain Catriona Matthew, Dubai-based Alison Muirhead and JA The Resort Ambassador Amy Boulden.
In the Aramco Series Team event, JA The Resort Ambassador Olivia Cowan captained the winning team of Sarina Schmidt, Diksha Dagar and amateur Andrew Kelsey in this best two scores from the team-of-four format on each hole over the 54 holes with a winning total of 41-under.
Innovation seems to be the key word in all sports and business these days.
Golf Saudi is certainly on to something with this concurrent individual/team format with no cut that keeps the interest throughout the three days for all players, spectators, TV viewers and sponsors. It also opens the door to new viewers of all ages.
This Aramco Team Series, alongside the LET’s 2021 schedule, is to be rolled out around the world later this year: Sotogrande (Spain) — August 5-7, New York — October 14-16 and Jeddah — November 10-12 to complete a four-event series that will all boast a $1 million prize fund.
In addition, Golf Saudi will host, for the second time, the 72-hole Aramco Saudi Ladies International Presented by Public Investment Fund form November 4-7, over the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, King Abdullah Economic City, Jeddah, with players competing for a further purse of $1 million.
LET chief executive Alexandra Armas, said of the Golf Saudi initiatives: “Our perspective is to give players playing opportunities, to grow the game of golf, and this partnership was going to meet all of those expectations.
“One of the things our players said to us was ‘if we are going to go to Saudi we want to make sure that we do grow the game, that we do clinics’.
“Unfortunately, because of Covid we couldn’t do a lot of activities [last year], but that is something we are definitely integrating very much now in our partnership with Golf Saudi.”